Trump signs Booker bill to help get lead out of the water

Updated Oct 05, 2019

President Donald Trump signed a new law on Friday that gives New Jersey officials access to $100 million in federal funds to invest in crumbling water infrastructure and prevent lead from leaching into the drinking supply.

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., allows states a one-time transfer of funds from its Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The measure allows New Jersey to pull additional resources to help Newark and other municipalities replace old lead pipes that are flaking into the tap.

“Every day, children and families are facing the realities of our country’s aging infrastructure and worrying about the safety of their drinking water,” Booker, Newark’s former mayor, said in a statement. "The federal government has a responsibility to restore their peace of mind and this legislation will give states desperately needed resources to repair and upgrade their drinking water systems.

High lead levels in Newark were first flagged in 2016 when half of the city schools shut off their water fountains and distributed bottled water. Lead levels in the city spiked in 2017 after treatment meant to prevent lead from dissolving off lead service lines failed. Lead service lines pump water from underground water mains to buildings.

Advocacy group New Jersey Future said these lead lines have been found in 104 drinking water systems of hundreds in the state.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, called the law “a monumental step.”

“As our infrastructure ages, it is critical to have federal partners who will stand with our communities in pursuit of clean drinking water, a vital part in protecting the health and safety of all Americans,” Murphy said.

Newark has replaced more than 1,000 lead pipes of the 18,000 snaking across the city since March of this year. The $132 million project will be complete in the next three years and will be funded by state money and a loan from Essex County.

“Many of our communities are grappling with the challenges of aging water infrastructure in dire need of an upgrade," U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said. “Giving states that added flexibility allows them to more quickly, efficiently and effectively respond to residents’ needs."

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